This is one of those lists I can't put off writing, as time is of the essence for these nine actors. While many film and TV stars are in the 95+ club right now, none are as well-known as this crowd. From youngest to oldest:
- Joan Fontaine, 95. Ms. Fontaine, who will turn 96 this October, was a genuine A-lister for a while, starring in two Hitchcock classics (Suspicion, for which she won a Best Actress Oscar, and Rebecca) and many other 1940s prestige pictures including Jane Eyre, The Constant Nymph, and Letter from an Unknown Woman. She moved on to TV in the '50s and '60s, and hasn't acted since 1994, but she's still with us. (Postscript: Fontaine died on December 15, 2013 at age 96.)
- Danielle Darrieux, 96. Originally I had cartoon voiceover artist June "Rocky the Flying Squirrel" Foray in this position. But Foray isn't really a movie star. Darrieux certainly is – in France, anyway, where her career has spanned eight decades. Francophiles know her as the leading lady in Max Ophüls' The Earrings of Madame de... (1953) and as part of the all-star ensemble in François Ozon's wacky mystery 8 Women (2002). Darrieux even starred in several now-obscure Hollywood pictures. Most recently, she voiced the grandmother in the 2007 animated art house hit Persepolis.
- Vera Lynn, 96. One of England's first major pop singers, Lynn is celebrated for her WWII anthem "We'll Meet Again". It was such a hit that Lynn got to star in three wartime feature films: Rhythm Serenade, One Exciting Night, and, naturally, We'll Meet Again. Those films may be forgotten, but Lynn and her signature hit are not. The song memorably concluded Dr. Strangelove, and Lynn had a track dedicated to her in Pink Floyd's The Wall. She hasn't recorded since 1984, when she was 67, but her Best Of album actually reached #1 in the UK in 2009.
- Zsa Zsa Gabor, 96. Will we remember the notorious Hungarian-born actress/socialite for anything other than slapping a Beverly Hills cop in 1989, and being married nine times? Well, she did appear in John Huston's Moulin Rouge and Orson Welles' Touch of Evil, so that's something. (Actually, a number of high-profile '50s films featured Gabor.) Though plagued by health problems in recent years, Zsa Zsa has taken a licking but keeps on ticking. (Postscript: Gabor died on December 18, 2016 at age 99.)
- Kirk Douglas, 96. There is zero argument that Douglas, who turns 97 this December, is a bona fide superstar. Do I need to list his better-known films? I do not.
- Olivia de Havilland, 96. Joan Fontaine's older sister – boy, there's some longevity in those genes – will hit 97 in July. For a time, she was even more famous than Kirk Douglas. Today, Gone With the Wind is de Havilland's best-known work, but she's delivered extraordinary performances in loads of great films. My favorite is The Heiress (for which she won one of her two Best Actress Oscars) but also check out The Snake Pit, The Dark Mirror, and the cult favorite Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte.
- Eli Wallach, 97. Wallach routinely tops those "he's still alive?" lists, because he looks like he's been 97 forever. Where do we start with this veteran Method actor? I'd say 1956's Baby Doll. Then on to The Magnificent Seven and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Then a lot of junk after that, but a lot of recognizable film and TV titles too. Wallach's most recent credit is 2010's Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. (Postscript: Wallach died on June 24, 2014 at age 98.)
- Norman Lloyd, 98. Lloyd may not be a household name, but after first tasting stardom as the villain in Hitchcock's 1942 thriller Saboteur, he has, like Wallach, never stopped working. (He appeared in the hit TV series Modern Family in 2010.) Lloyd was also a big TV producer and director in the '60s and '70s, notably overseeing the original Alfred Hitchcock Presents, but he will probably be best remembered for starring in the '80s medical drama St. Elsewhere. Other big screen credits include Hitchcock's Spellbound, Chaplin's Limelight, Weir's Dead Poets Society, and Scorsese's Age of Innocence. Norman Lloyd is no slouch.
- Luise Rainer, 103. Yes, 103. Although these days, Rainer is mostly just an answer to trivia questions – who was the first actress to win back-to-back Oscars? Who's the oldest Oscar winner still alive? – being a double Oscar winner is still a pretty big deal. (She accomplished this feat for 1936's The Great Ziegfeld and 1937's The Good Earth.) The German-born, London-based Rainer's career peaked early, and she only performed sporadically after her second Academy Award, her final role being in the 1997 British film The Gambler. (Little-known, but with an impressive cast including Michael Gambon, Polly Walker, and Dominic West.) She is, after Hong Kong film producer Run Run Shaw (105) and Portuguese director Manoel de Oliveira (104), Earth's oldest living celebrity. (Postscript: Rainer died on December 30, 2014 at age 104. Shaw died on January 7, 2014 at age 106. De Oliveira died on April 2, 2015 at age 106.)